Marin luxury real estate market holding its own

Marin Luxury RE Market

Marin’s luxury real estate market is holding steady with sales essentially unchanged from last year, held back by a dearth of homes on the market, experts said.

Forty-eight homes valued at more than $4 million sold between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31, 2015, while 49 such homes sold during the same period in 2014, according to Bay Area Real Estate Information Services, a North Bay multiple listing service.

“We still have a lack of inventory,” said Marcus Robinson, an agent with Coldwell Banker. “The supply is really down. In all of Marin, in every price range, we only have 318 detached single-family homes for sale (at present).”

“I have four buyers looking for something in the $6 million to $7 million range and I can’t find anything for them. I’ve been trying for a year,” said Marilyn Rich, a Pacific Union agent.

Eric Gelman of Bradley Real Estate said, “Right now the luxury market is a seller’s market. It’s a good time to be a seller.”

Complicating the short supply of homes for sale is the tendency of upscale buyers to be finicky about what they purchase, agents said.

“Each of my luxury buyers wants a particular town, or two towns, and has particular needs,” Rich said. “They are very discerning and very particular. They know exactly what they want and are willing to wait for it.”

“If they are going to be spending $3 million or $4 million, they want it to be move-in ready,” Robinson said. “Buyers are thinking twice about buying a house and having to redo kitchens and baths. A lot of buyers don’t have the time to go through that — the permit process, hiring an architect, a contractor. Some of these people are high-powered, they have demanding careers.”

“They want to move in and put their coffeemaker on and their toothbrush in the toothbrush holder,” said Carey Hagglund Condy, a Pacific Union agent. “Women are running companies, just like their husbands.”

High-end buyers “want land. They want a nice flat piece of property,” Rich said. “They want to be able to put in a swimming pool if they want to. The $8 million and above (buyers) want a guest house on the property.”


According to Robinson, when selling an upscale home, “What’s very important is photos that are on the Internet, because 85 percent of buyers go to the Internet first. Your house had better show well in pictures. If it doesn’t, buyers are not going to call the listing agent to see it.”

“In general, it’s important for sellers to make the best effort. You need to present your house well and price it right,” Gelman said.

Several high-profile luxury sales have closed in Marin recently. Locksley Hall, an 1895 Belvedere mansion, sold in August for $47.5 million, smashing price records in the county. Also, Barry Zito, the former San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics pitcher, sold his Kentfield mansion for $8.15 million.

A price of $1.5 million or more is often used by real estate information services to designate luxury homes. However, with Marin’s median price hitting $990,500 in July, this number is deemed too low in the context of Marin County, agents said.

Rich Benson, Marin County’s assessor-recorder, concurred.

“That ($1.5 million) is not much when you’re comparing it to $47.5 million,” Benson said, referring to the sale of Locksley Hall.


As it happens, the market looked much the same when the numbers were run for sales valued at $2 million or more.

Two hundred and sixty-nine homes valued at $2 million or more sold in Marin County between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31, 2014. And 276 such homes sold during the same period this year, according to the multiple listing service.

Looking to the immediate future, agents were crossing their fingers.

“We’re hoping for more inventory after Labor Day,” said Kate Hamilton of Coldwell Banker. “Things seasonally slow down in August, but we’ll sometimes see a flurry following Labor Day weekend.”

The experts felt the outlook for the long run was positive, saying that the technology boom in San Francisco and the South Bay has affected not only those areas but the surrounding areas as well, boosting prices at all levels.

“We are one of the hotbeds of the U.S. economy,” said John Zeiter of Decker Bullock Sotheby’s International Realty. “Google has $65 billion in cash and Apple has $155 billion in cash. They have employees who are making money — and small companies making a product and selling it to Google and Facebook. These employees are getting big buyout numbers and that money is turning around and going into real estate.”

“I don’t think we can help but reflect what’s happening in the Bay Area in general,” Assessor-Recorder Benson said. “Marin is a very desirable area.”


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California ‘Flintstone House’ is on the market for $4.2 million

One of the most recognized and beloved homes in the Bay Area is for sale. The Flintstone House!!

Flintstone House

Yabba dabba doo! California’s well-known ‘Flintstone House’ is on the market.

The 2,370-square-foot home sits on a hilltop overlooking Interstate 280 just outside San Francisco. The 39-year-old, three-bedroom, two-bathroom home is listed at $4.2 million.

“Many of you have seen this house from Highway 280 for years. Your curiosity will be satisfied when you see the great photos,” listing agent Judy Meuschke said in a Sept. 1 Facebook post.

The house was designed by architect William Nicholson and built in 1976. The home became informally known as the “Flintstone House,” a nod to the cartoon sitcom about a family that lived during the Stone Age. The quirky home was was also called the “Barbapapa House” in the 1970s, according to Curbed San Francisco.

Flintstone House 2

Meuschke told NBC Bay Area that the asking price is “pretty good price for a landmark.”

She said the owner chose to remain anonymous and has lived in the home for 19 years.

“You can see by her artwork and her furnishings and the things she collected that she loved this place,” she told NBC.

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Barry Zito unloads Marin County villa for $8.15 million

Former San Francisco Giants pitching ace Barry Zito has sold his Marin County mansion for a loss, getting only $8.15 million for the villa he listed for $11.495 million in 2012.

Barry Zito

Zito, now a minor league pitcher with the Oakland A’s, originally bought the property for $8.863 million. It had also been on the market as a $25,000 per month rental. The main house has 7,116 square feet that encompass four bedrooms and five bathrooms, as well as a wine cellar.

The home, at 660 Goodhill Road, sits on two acres. It boasts a guest house, pool, sweeping views of Mount Tamalpais and Phoenix Lake.

The sale was brokered by William Bullock, Max Applegarth and Lydia Sarkissianof Decker Bullock Sotheby’s International Realty.

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Exclusive: Locksley Hall in Belvedere Sells for $47.5M, Shatters All Records

Once the most expensive home for sale in California at $65 million, Locksley Hall in Belvedere sold today for $47.5 million, just $1.5 million shy of its latest asking price of $49 million. The sale breaks the record for the highest reported single-family home sale in San Francisco proper by $12 million, and the highest reported sale in Belvedere by around $22 million.

The estate—a three-story, 9,235-square-foot abode with a poolhouse, rose garden and panic room—is located on the southern crest of Belvedere Island with jaw-dropping views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.

locksleyhallledeimage 1

The gigantic (by Bay Area standards) estate was built circa 1895 by San Francisco banker C.O. Perry, and was purchased in 1995 by mining mogul Robert Friedland and his wife, Darlene, for $5.5 million. The couple then sank approximately $30 million into the renovation and restoration of the historic landmark over the next nine years. Interior designer Suzanne Tucker took care of the interiors, while Stephen Suzman Design handled the landscaping.

As Curbed reported late last year, “one bonus for prospective billionaires is the property tax situation: Because this is a historicspread, 440 Golden Gate falls under California’s Mills Act, which reduces property taxes in exchange for preserving buildings.”



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Bay Area’s Dubious Distinction: Tightest Housing Supply in California

The supply of homes for sale in the Bay Area remained exceptionally tight in July, with no other region in California even close to our constricted inventory levels. The limited supply had predictable results: Sales prices were up solidly from a year earlier, and the Bay Area remained the only region where multiple offers pushed final prices above list prices.

Monopoly toy housesThe California Association of Realtors said in its July 2015 sales and price report that the months’ supply of inventory (MSI) for single-family homes held steady at 2.0 across the nine-county Bay Area, compared with 3.6 in the Los Angeles metro area, 3.9 in the Inland Empire, and a statewide average of 3.3.

San Mateo and Marin counties had the tightest housing supply in the state, both with an MSI of 1.5. They were followed by San Francisco (1.6), Alameda and Santa Clara counties (1.8), Contra Costa County (2.2), Sonoma County (2.6), Solano County (2.7), and Napa County (3.2). An MSI of 6.0 to 7.0 is typically considered to be a balanced market, with larger numbers favoring buyers and smaller numbers favoring sellers.

The median sales price in the Bay Area was $831,290 in July, down 0.2 percent from June but up 9.1 percent from a year ago, outpacing the state’s annual home price growth of 5.4 percent. July sales were down 0.2 percent from June but up 5.2 percent from a year earlier.

“While July home sales rose at the statewide level, the market is still constrained by low housing affordability and a tight supply in areas where job growth is robust, such as San Francisco and San Jose,” said CAR President Chris Kutzkey in a statement accompanying the sales and price report. “Neighboring regions such as Napa, Solano, and Sonoma are experiencing strong sales due to their affordability and proximity to job centers. However, housing affordability could become a bigger issue in these areas if housing demand continues to grow but supply can’t keep pace.”

On an annual basis, median sale prices rose in all but one of the nine Bay Area counties, led by San Francisco, up 19.9 percent to $1,312,500; followed by San Mateo, up 16.4 percent ($1,300,440); Alameda, up 12.2 percent ($810,640); Santa Clara, up 12.1 percent ($965,000); Sonoma, up 11.8 percent ($570,190); Solano, up 7.4 percent ($360,690); Marin, up 2.7 percent ($1,057,140); and Napa, up 0.9 percent ($655,610). Contra Costa posted the only year-over-year price decline, falling 5.8 percent to $746,040.

The Bay Area is home to the six most expensive counties in California: San Francisco, San Mateo, Marin, Santa Clara, Alameda, and Contra Costa.

Homes statewide sold at a median of 98.8 percent of the list price, except in the Bay Area. Homes here sold at a median of 5.2 percent above the list price, up from a 3.4 percent premium a year earlier, but down from a 6.3 percent premium in June.

San Francisco had the highest price per square foot in July at $804, followed by San Mateo County ($748), and Santa Clara County ($574).

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San Francisco Ranked Nation’s Hottest Real Estate Market for Second Straight Month

San Francisco’s famous fog traditionally brings chilly temperatures to the city during the summer months, but the real estate market was caught in a heat wave in July. Ditto for real estate all over California, where more than half of the nation’s hottest housing markets are located.foggy_sf

In its newest monthly report, ranks the 20 hottest U.S. real estate markets based on buyer demand – here meaning listing views – and fewest days on market. In a statement accompanying the report, Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke said that buyer demand is so intense in these markets that listings often receive up to three times as many page views as the national average.

As in June, San Francisco ranked as the hottest housing market in the U.S., with the average home taking just 30 days to sell. classifies the cities of Oakland and Hayward as part of San Francisco, underscoring the point that homes in the East Bay are also in high demand as escalating prices push more buyers out of the city.

Vallejo, which was the nation’s second hottest market in June, fell to the No. 4 spot, with homes selling in an average of 31 days. Santa Rosa ranked as the No. 5 hottest U.S. housing market, with homes selling in 32 days, followed by San Jose at No. 6. Homes in San Jose sold in an average of 28 days in July, the fastest pace of any of the cities on the list.

Other Golden State real estate market named among the country’s hottest were San Diego (No. 8), Santa Cruz (No. 10), Sacramento (No. 12), Stockton (No. 13), Yuba City (No. 14), Los Angeles (No. 17), and Oxnard (No. 18). The latter two returned to’s list after dropping off in June, while Yuba City, located about 40 miles north of Sacramento, is a newcomer.

Across the U.S., homes sold in an average of 69 days in July, down 7 percent from one year ago but up 5 percent from June. Smoke said that while demand for homes remains strong as summer peaks, the slowing pace of sales indicates that market conditions are becoming more balanced, which points to more moderate price growth this fall.

Northern California homebuyers would likely welcome any drop-off in home prices, which were more than three times the national median list price of $234,000 in some places. In July, the median list price in San Jose was $898,000, the highest of the 20 hottest markets. Santa Cruz had the list’s second largest home price — $824,000 – followed by San Francisco at No. 3, with a median list price of $748,000.

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Zillow’s dotloop Acquisition: It’s About Trust

I don’t trust Zillow. It’s that simple. I have frequently communicated my lack of trust to Zillow’s C-suite.MarkMcLaughlin_small

As someone who runs a real estate brokerage, I have always been wary of Zillow’s ambitions. There were, and are, just too many contradictions to stomach.

Consider the following:

  • From the beginning, Zillow has positioned itself as the consumers’ friend but has cynically titillated millions with inaccurate “Zestimates.”
  • The company aggressively markets itself as the best place to find a home even as its listing coverage and quality leave much to be desired.
  • Zillow’s business model depends on advertising and selling services to real estate professionals, yet it touts consumers’ ability to post self-listed homes on the site.

For me, many of the real estate professionals at Pacific Union, and brokerage leaders across the country, this has hardly engendered admiration. But Zillow’s recent acquisition of dotloop, a real estate transaction-management software company, represents something much more serious: a total failure of trust.

At risk here is the industry’s most sensitive personal and financial information and our legal and ethical duty as real estate advisors.

It’s time our industry takes a stand, pushes back, and demands the same trust and integrity from Zillow that our clients expect and receive from trusted real estate professionals.

In my mind this comes down to three issues:

The Gap Between Words and Actions

First, this acquisition is the greatest disconnect between Zillow’s words and actions to date. For the past year, Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff has proclaimed to anyone who will listen that Zillow sells ads, not houses. I suppose this was meant to make those of us in the real estate business feel better, but many of us were asking ourselves the question “Does he think we’re stupid?” even before the dotloop deal.

Now Zillow has done something quite odd for a self-proclaimed “media company.” It has potentially extended itself deep into the mechanics of the real estate transaction. Rascoff’s spin on this is that Zillow acquired dotloop to make the leads it sends agents more valuable.

Zillow said that it simply sells ads. What Zillow just did is something quite different.

As the saying goes, “Fool me once … ”

Privacy and Common Sense

With the dotloop acquisition, Zillow will offer real estate transaction-management software while continuing to sell advertising. Selling advertising is about matching advertisers with audiences. These days, that is done through sophisticated data mining, tracking, and targeting technologies that concern many privacy advocates.

Now, I am not paranoid. I am not a conspiracy theorist. And I have no reason to believe that the Zillow team has plans to egregiously violate thecommon-sense privacy policies consumers expect and real estate professionals would demand of a service provider.

But it seems obviously reckless that sensitive data needed for a life-changing financial transaction will be housed in a system owned by a company that sells a ton of advertising.

Would you upload your bank statements or Social Security number to a Facebook group? Would you store your medical records in your Yahoo! account?

Real estate transactions are built on trust between professionals and their clients. At Pacific Union, we will not jeopardize that trust by treating our clients’ information cavalierly.

Below I identify some huge gaps in dotloop’s privacy policy that may alarm you – indeed, now that Zillow owns the company, they may terrify you.

The Fine Print

Let’s do what dotloop and Zillow hopes you won’t and take a moment to consider some of the fine print – dotloop’s privacy policy. Warning: This is not a trust-building exercise.

First comes the reality directed at real estate professionals:

“You agree and consent that we may collect, use, and disclose your personal information in accordance with this Policy. To make this Policy easy to find, we make it available on our homepage.

Then, an ambiguous definition of the sort of information that may be collected and shared:

“The type of personal information collected on the website includes, but is not limited to: Name, Address, Email Address, Phone Number, and your involvement in a real estate transaction.

Followed by the reality that they’re not just talking about your information – your clients are on the hook too:

” … the same types of information previously described in this paragraph will also apply to other people’s information.

Then, the kicker:

“We may share your personal information with third parties who may offer services that may be of interest (“Third Party Sharing”).

Of course, users are informed that they can opt out of third-party sharing. But I don’t think many real estate professionals will feel comfortable bringing this up with their clients, do you?

The Bottom Line

Zillow is feeling extreme pressure from Wall Street – the word “desperate” comes to my mind. The company’s stock price has fallen from $160 on July 28 of last year to $81.50 at the close of trading last Friday. And while Rascoff recently said that Zillow’s management thinks about the company’s trajectory in “decades,” the heat is on to grow revenue – fast.

I therefore expect more moves like the dotloop acquisition. I expect more efforts to frantically spin the industry into believing that Zillow is a trusted partner. I predict more disconnects between words and actions.

I know I am not alone in holding these views. And on behalf of our company, our professionals, our clients, and our industry I will not remain idle. I will continue to ask hard questions, and I won’t accept deflective answers.

I don’t trust Zillow.

– Mark A. McLaughlin, CEO, Pacific Union

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Walkable Neighborhoods Are Key to Millennial Homebuyers

Living in a highly walkable neighborhood is more important to millennials than it is to other generations, as nearly one-third of them use their feet as a regular form of transportation.


In a recent survey conducted in conjunction with Portland State University, the National Association of Realtors found that 50 percent of millennials – defined here as persons born in 1981 and later – said that living within an easy walk of amenities was very important when choosing a place to live. The importance of walkability decreases with age: 43 percent of Gen Xers ranked it as critical, compared with 38 percent of baby boomers.

One reason that a neighborhood’s walkability is so important to millennials is because a significant number of them – 32 percent – reported walking to work or school within the past month, compared with 19 percent of Gen Xers and 13 percent of baby boomers. Millennials were also the most likely to stroll in their free time, with 62 percent saying that they walked to restaurants and shops and when running personal errands. Additionally, the survey found that millennials walked an average of 13.3 days per month, more than older generations.

Members of Generation X were slightly more prone to travel by bicycle: 28 percent reported having ridden a bike for transportation or exercise in the past 30 days compared with 26 percent of millennials and 21 percent of baby boomers. Gen Xers favored neighborhoods with bike lanes more than other generations, with 28 percent calling them very important.

Millennials are flocking to the Bay Area to take advantage of a booming economy and high-paying jobs, and the fact that the region’s major cities are some of the most walkable in the U.S. is likely an additional attraction. In its 2015 rankings of America’s most walkable cities, Walk Score named San Francisco as the second most walkable city in the country, with a score of 83.9 out of a possible 100. Chinatown ranked as the city’s most walkable neighborhood, with a perfect score, while four other enclaves received a 99.

Oakland ranked No. 9 in the country for walkability, notching a 68.5. Downtown tied Koreatown-Northgate as the most walkable neighborhood in the city, both scoring a 97.

Walk Score also ranks neighborhoods for their bike-friendliness based on four factors, including number of bike lanes and hills. Even with its famously steep terrain, San Francisco ranks No. 2 in the country for bike-friendliness with a score of 75.1. Perhaps not surprisingly, San Francisco’s best neighborhoods for bicyclists are all in relatively flat parts of the city, including the Civic Center and the Mission District, both of which received a score of 98.

With a Bike Score of 60.9, Oakland ranks No. 14 in the U.S. for bicyclists, with the Bushrod neighborhood in the northern part of the city netting a high score of 98. Nearby Berkeley actually has a higher overall Bike Score – 88.8 – than either of its larger neighbors but didn’t make the top 20 due to its size.

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New Homes Today Are Larger, With More Amenities

How does your home compare with the latest trends in residential construction? The U.S. Census Bureau recently released reams of data on new-home characteristics for 2014.

New Homes

Looking at data compiled over the past 40 years, new homes today are larger and come with more amenities than in decades past. Rental units are more likely to be part of large, multifamily developments than they once were. And some construction features, such as vinyl siding, have seen their popularity wax and wane over the years.

Take a look at some of the Census Bureau’s findings:

Of the 620,000 single-family homes completed in 2014:

  • 91 percent had air conditioning (up from 48 percent in 1974).
  • 10 percent had two bedrooms or less, while 46 percent had four or more. (Forty years earlier, 64 percent of new homes had three bedrooms.)
  • 4 percent had one and one-half bathrooms or less, while 36 percent had three or more. (It was a different story in 1974: 40 percent of homes had one and one-half bathrooms or less, and there were so few homes with three or more bathrooms that they weren’t even counted.)
  • 30 percent had vinyl siding as the principal exterior wall material. (Vinyl siding was first tracked by the Census Bureau in 1992, when it appeared on 23 percent of new homes. Its use peaked at 40 percent of new homes in 2002.)
  • The median size was 2,453 square feet (up from 1,560 in 1974).

Of the 437,000 single-family homes sold in 2014:

  • 72 percent were in a homeowners’ association.
  • 4 percent were in an age-restricted development.
  • 39 percent had one story, 56 percent had two stories, and 6 percent had three or more.
  • 71 percent were paid for using conventional financing, and 9 percent were paid for in cash.
  • 31 percent had both a patio and a porch.
  • The average sales price was $345,800 (up from $97,600 in 1984).
  • The average price per square foot was $97.09 (up from $60.21 in 1994).

Of the 264,000 multifamily units completed in 2014:

  • 48 percent were in buildings with 50 units or more (up from 20 percent in 1974).
  • 9 percent were age-restricted.
  • 47 percent had two or more bathrooms.
  • 5 percent were efficiencies.
  • The median size of units built for rent was 1,080 square feet. The median size of those built for sale was 1,432 square feet.
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California: Home to Most of the Country’s Priciest ZIP Codes

Seventy percent of the most expensive U.S. communities in which to purchase a home are located in the Golden State, with Silicon Valley of course well represented.


Using data from real estate listings portal Property Shark, Business Insider ranked the 20 priciest ZIP codes in America based on the median home sales price between January 2014 and June 2015. Fourteen of those ZIP codes are in California, although the country’s highest-dollar real estate market is actually on Long Island.

Business Insider ranks Sagaponack, New York — in tony The Hamptons – as the most expensive place in America to buy a home, with a median sales price of $5.13 million. Four other New York ZIP codes made the top 20, including another in The Hamptons and three in Manhattan.

Besides Miami’s 33109 ZIP code, the rest of the country’s most expensive neighborhoods are situated along the California coast. Five of Silicon Valley’s most exclusive communities landed on the list, with residents earning some of the highest salaries in the U.S.

Atherton‘s 94027 ranks as the country’s second-most expensive ZIP code, with a median sales price of $5.05 million. Residents of the San Mateo County town pull in a median household income of $220,583, the third highest of any community included on the list.

Palo Alto‘s 94301 ZIP code captured the No. 5 spot, with a median sales price of $2.83 million. Los Altos Hills‘ 94022 ranked No. 10 ($2.6 million), followed by Portola Valley’s 94028 (No. 11, $2.45 million) and Los Altos’ 94024 (No. 17, $2.3 million).

Home shoppers who are lucky enough to afford a property in one of those prestigious Silicon Valley communities will call the country’s most elite and affluent tech executives neighbors. Atherton is home to Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman, while Google co-founder Sergey Brin lives in nearby Los Altos Hills. In Palo Alto, where Business Insider says that home prices have doubled over the past 10 years, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg owns five homes and even purchased four neighboring properties in order to protect his privacy.

The other Golden State communities ranked among the nation’s priciest are all in Southern California: four in Los Angeles County, three in Orange County, and one each in Santa Barbara and San Diego counties.

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